Why Mngqithi is impressed by colleague Mokwena's idea that led to Sundowns turnaround against TTM

Manqoba Mnqgithi, right, is in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns, alongside co-coaches Steve Komphela and Rulani Mokwena, centre.
Manqoba Mnqgithi, right, is in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns, alongside co-coaches Steve Komphela and Rulani Mokwena, centre.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/ Backpagepix/ Gallo Images

Manqoba Mngqithi has praised the tactical awareness shown by co-coach Rulani Mokwena that he says led to Mamelodi Sundowns creating goal-scoring opportunities in their 3-1 DStv Premiership win against Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila on Tuesday.

The machine that is twice defending champions Sundowns matched the Premiership record of the longest unbeaten run of 19 matches‚ set by Kaizer Chiefs under Stuart Baxter in 2014-15‚ sweeping aside tricky TTM at Peter Mokaba Stadium. The Brazilians continued to roll towards what seems an increasingly likely third successive league title.

Mngqithi admitted Downs had a patchy start against TTM‚ but said it was a tactical change that came from Mokwena's suggestion‚ switching to inverted fullbacks‚ that played a part in the Brazilians finding stability, and fluency in attack.

Inverted fullbacks are where the right and left backs – Thapelo Morena and Lyle Lakay on Tuesday – come in tighter‚ playing narrowly just in front of the centre backs and closer to the central midfielders.

“We knew we were playing a very tough opposition‚ and that they are desperate and could come at us‚” Mngqithi said after Sundowns secured a fifth win in six Premiership matches.

“We wanted to have a very good start. It was unfortunate we could not get an early goal. There were moments where we felt we could have had an early penalty to settle things down.

“And we were very unfortunate to concede the goal we conceded. I still have to check the video because I thought it was offside.

“It put a lot of stress on us‚ because we had to come out‚ and we know they are very dangerous on the counterattack with players like [Thabo] Rakhale and [Thabo] Mnyamane.

“And we had to dig deeper. But we improved the intensity of our game. Maybe that goal helped us to come back to the intensity that is Sundowns. But we were not clinical‚ and our possession at times was not as incisive to create scoring opportunities.

“But I am very impressed with the contribution of coach Rulani when he suggested that we invert our fullbacks to try to get proper diagonals. Because that’s where the goal of [Sphelele] Mkhukise came‚ and Thapelo Morena could have done the same‚ and Lyle Lakay could have easily scored from that situation.

“And truth be told it was a very good idea when you put those fullbacks in there‚ because their wingers were not threatening us. So we wanted to use our fullbacks a bit more in our attacking play‚ and I think it benefited us a bit.”

Sundowns went a goal down to Thembisani Nevhulamba’s 18th-minute strike‚ but goals from Rivaldo Coetzee in first-half added time‚ Mkhulise (69th) and Sibusiso Vilakazi (82nd) secured another convincing win for the champions.

Under a coaching trio completed by Steve Komphela‚ Downs have lost once in all competitions‚ including the Caf Champions League‚ in 2020-21; 1-0 in the MTN8 opening round against Bloemfontein Celtic way back in October.

Downs (43 points) have a six-point lead‚ and two games in hand‚ on nearest challengers Lamontville Golden Arrows and AmaZulu (37 points) at the top of the league.

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